United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday gave in to pressure from Israel by rejecting a U.N. report that accused Israel of "gross negligence and recklessness" in its 22-day assault of the Gaza strip, even as he said the U.N. would seek compensation for damages.
Ban, who appointed the four-person inquiry board in February, rejected the reports’ recommendations for further investigations into whether Israel had breached international law, including its use of deadly white phosphorus bombs, and said he would only seek compensation for the more than $11 million of damage to U.N. property.
The report criticized the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for causing civilian deaths as well as attacking and even destroying U.N. facilities.
Ban said the full 184-page report was being kept secret because information in it could prejudice U.N. security, but sent a 27-page summary to members of the U.N. Security Council and Israel.
Ian Martin, a former head of the rights group Amnesty International who later joined the United Nations, led the investigation into nine incidents of damage to U.N. property and faulted Israel in seven of them. The Briton’s investigation blamed the Islamist movement Hamas in one case and could not establish responsibility in another.
"In six of the nine incidents, the board concluded that the death, injuries and damage involved were caused by military actions, using munitions launched or dropped from the air or fired from the ground, by the Israel Defense Forces," the report said.
Israel’s shelling of the Gaza compound of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) with high explosive and white phosphorus, an incendiary substance, "was grossly negligent, amounting to recklessness," it said.
The panel concluded that Israeli forces had failed to meet their responsibilities to protect U.N. personnel and civilians when they opened fire near an UNRWA school in Jabalia where Palestinians were sheltered.
In these and other incidents, Israel said its forces were responding to Palestinian fire.
But the U.N. report said allegations that Palestinians had fired from within U.N. premises "were untrue, continued to be made after it ought to have been known that they were untrue, and were not adequately withdrawn and publicly regretted."
The findings present the latest criticism of Israel over the war in which more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.
“In a larger sense, the report reminds us that there has still been no progress on the critical elements that would secure long-term peace for the people of the region,” Ban told Tuesday’s press conference.
“We need a durable ceasefire, which includes an end to arms smuggling, the opening of the crossings, recovery and reconstruction in Gaza, and steps toward Palestinian reconciliation," he said.
But in the report’s introduction, Ban said he was “carefully considering” what actions “if any” to take on the panel’s recommendations. The secretary general also passionately thanked Israel for its cooperation and spoke out against “continued and indiscriminate” attacks by Hamas.
Meanwhile Israeli officials rejected the report as one-sided, saying it ignored the fact that Israel was fighting a war against a "terrorist" organization, referring to the democratically elected Hamas.
"The state of Israel rejects the criticism in the committee’s summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee," the foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
"The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world."
Israel said its armed forces conducted their own investigation into the conduct of the raids and said last month it had found no serious misconduct by troops and said they acted within international law.
Israel’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Daniel Carmon, called the report one-sided and unfair. "We were really shocked to see a report where the board is limiting itself to the facts of the damages only, ignoring the context, ignoring that there is war against terrorism," he said.